On our not-yet-released Russell episode, Wes dismisses Russell's A History of Western Philosophy
In any case, some nice gentleman has posted a recording of this part of that book being read aloud, which you can listen to here. There's some subtle snarkiness in it that I find entertaining.
(There are six parts to the lecture, but you can follow the youtube links to get to the subsequent parts.)
There's some more discussion here of Locke's target in his first treatise: Robert Filmer, who believed that all political power is derived from paternal power, with some interesting comparison to similar beliefs from Japan. There's also some additional historical background, particularly re. the religious climate in which Locke was writing.
Discussion of the state of nature starts in the second clip around 4 minutes in. Russell says that Locke's talk of the law of nature is taken from the Middle Ages and points out a couple of specific ways that this conception has changed even among folks that have no doubt that there is such a natural law. Russell thinks that this talk of law can't be abstracted from its theological basis; where this is tried, it has "no clear logical foundation."
Note at 6:49, clip 2: "In Locke's theory of government... there is little that is original. In this, Locke resembles most of the men that have won fame for their ideas." True original thinkers are dismissed as nuts and quickly forgotten.
Daniel Horne says
That’s a shame Wes didn’t like it. I’ll be keen to hear Wes’s objections on the Russell episode. I found HoWP a great introduction for newbies like myself. It’s well written, with lots of fun zingers thrown in. Russell droll commentary throughout makes it easy to stay awake. But I don’t have enough of an opinion to assess the value of Russell’s own subtle or not-so-subtle critiques.
I feel similar to you, Daniel. I couldn’t disagree more with Russell on many topics, but his style is engaging and readable.
Wes Alwan says
Try Anthony Kenny for a really good history (there’s a brief version and then the larger four volume set).
Daniel Horne says
Very cool, just Kindled it, thanks!
Russell’s HoWP has some padding–such as the long-winded discussion of the Scholastics–but Russell’s hardly some know-nothing philistine as some claim (usually religious types). His discussion of modern philosophy from Descartes on (including Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Kant, Hegel, etc) is a solid introduction–advanced undergrad, at least. His discussion of political philosophy is not bad (as with this chapter on Locke’s Treatises, and the…attack on the divine right of Kings)
His chapter on Kant’s Critique of PR has some rather forceful criticism of the synthetic a priori, as well–Lord Russell does have the British glibness and is not very tolerant of religious tradition, or “strong men” philosophy (ie, Hegel and Nietzsche) –or orthodox marxism– but it’s a book that should be on the shelves of discriminating hipsters, at least next to Marx’s Capital, Freud, or po-mo obscurities .